Entering the world of work has always been a competitive place. Whether you’ve worked your way up from an apprenticeship, gained a university degree or are fresh out of college, real working experience is one thing that cannot be taught, but has to be gained. It can be very difficult to get the right opportunity if you are in any of the above scenarios, how can you get those junior level positions when they are asking for years of experience? An internship still remains one of the most powerful, and best ways to weave your way through the undergrowth, gaining that all important experience, and that first rung on the career ladder. The only thing that pips the post for me personally, is internships abroad.
I was grateful to have experienced this first hand as I had a year abroad as part of my university degree in Tampere, Finland. It was undoubtedly the best experience of my life, and really cemented my future path, and continued to strengthen my work ethic. If you’re currently in the transition stage and looking to gain some real life and work experience, let’s explore some of the benefits of internships abroad.
When you move to work in a new country, it’s not until that initial ‘holiday’ phase wears off that the real culture shock sets in. Moving to a new country strips you of almost everything you knew before that, and nothing can prepare you for how cultures are so different. Pushing through that culture shock is challenging, but once you get to the other side you won’t ever look at anything in the same way again.
Interning abroad makes you adapt, and quickly, you might have to learn a new language, and you’re absolutely going to have to get used to meeting, and conversing with new people on a daily basis. If you are interning abroad, the chances are that there are many other people from different countries too. The different wealth of cultures, languages and people you come into contact with is a priceless experience that so many people will never get the chance to experience.
With that, comes independence. The BEST thing I ever did was moving away for university, and I would have turned out to be a completely different person if I hadn’t done that. It is almost a rite of passage, but by taking that one step further and taking it abroad, you will push yourself even further out of your comfort zone and exceed. You do not have the option to just pop home for the weekend on a whim, or have your friends drive up for the weekend.
Living in Finland was one of the most isolating experiences of my life. For a few weeks. Then my life changed. Everything has to be done on your own, you have to meet new people, you have to learn (some!) the language, you have to go to work. No one is there to do it for you, and this crushing, yet exhilarating feeling of pushing through to the other side is where change happens, and this is the one thing you do not get with a stay at home internship.
Industry, Job Experience
The number one benefit of any internship, whether at home or abroad is that you gain industry, real world experience. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and are available across almost all industries you can think of. There are so many incredible International Internships London that would help shape your career path for the better, whilst London would be one of my top choices if I was living outside of the UK because of the wealth of big name brands at your disposal. Getting real job experience under your belt is so important, but what comes with that is what you develop alongside it too; a work ethic, relationships, time management, industry skills, and so much more!
Relationships in business are KEY. You cannot progress without building a strong network around you from day dot. Your first internship will allow you to network across the business, building contacts and getting access to other people in different departments across the business. Attend any networking events and socials as a way to bed into the business, and get contacts! Always follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn so you can easily get in touch with anyone who may be able to help you, post your internship.
The great thing about an internship abroad is that it gives you a taste of what that prospective career looks like. You get the opportunity to decide whether it’s really for you, or if you want to go on and try working in a different department, or industry all together without being tied in. Internships can range from a month, upwards to a year, so there is no harm in doing a couple to find your perfect career sweet spot.
And of course, an internship allows you to secure that all important first professional reference that can give you that leg up that ladder. A reference from an internship provides valuable, real world experience that stands for something as you move onto other jobs. When most people leave college or university you either have a tutor, or a reference to fall back on from your first ever job which often doesn’t relate to where you are trying to get to. A solid reference from an internship in your chosen sector will give you that boost over other candidates, that head start, and sign that you have the drive and ambition to get ahead in your career.
There are so many career boosting benefits of internships abroad that will help continue the development of your personal, social and work skills. It’s so much more than just securing that elusive reference for your CV. For me, my year in Finland created experiences I would never have experienced had I stayed home, I created friendships for life and it helped further my knowledge in my chosen career path. Just do it!